If you love the sight of butterflies fluttering around your garden the one thing you should never do is to plant a butterfly bush. This may sound like strange advice since we all know that butterflies are attracted to this shrub like bees to honey. But according to Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomlogy at the University of Delaware, the butterfly bush is both an invasive plant and is actually harmful to the butterflies. I found an article by Leah Zerbe on the Rodale’s Organic Life website which gives you all the details.
If someone took 75 percent of your food away, you wouldn’t be happy. But when you grow plants that provide only nectar, including invasive species like butterfly bush, that’s what you’re doing to birds and butterflies in your own backyard.
A leading wildlife ecologist wants you to start thinking about your property?no matter how big or small?as an important link in your local ecosystem. It’s no exaggeration to say that when you choose which plants to include in your garden, you’re deciding if members of your community’s local food web will be nourished or unintentionally starved.
And to get to that mind frame, which is a way of thinking that truly benefits nature, including its butterflies, you’re going to have to come to a harsh realization: You need to stop planting the butterfly bush?forever.
We turned to Doug Tallamy, PhD, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, to give us the hard truth about butterfly bush. Tallamy also wrote the must-have book Bringing Nature Home. (It’ll help you make much smarter planting decisions.)
Related: Why The Butterfly Bush Gets A Bad Rap
Problem 1: Butterfly Bush Doesn’t Stay In Your Yard
Butterfly bush is an invasive plant, meaning it outcompetes and crowds out beneficial native plants that have been naturally growing in your community for centuries. In this country, butterfly bush, which has origins in Asia, readily spreads and takes over space where native plants?the ones naturally selected to nourish the local food web (the birds, butterflies, and moths most people love to watch in their yards)?would normally thrive. In fact, Buddleja davidii has life history traits that make it invasive in most environments.
“I hear the ‘it’s invasive here, but not over there’ argument a lot,” says Tallamy. “While it is invasive in many parts of the U.S., what’s really important is that the plant has the ability to be invasive almost anywhere. If it’s not in some place, chances are good it will be [at some point]. They become invasive when they reach a certain density, when lots of people plant it.”
Butterfly bush moves around. There’s clear documentation of butterfly bush invasions on Superfund restoration sites that are supposed to be grasslands. In Hawaii, there are some islands that are virtually all butterfly bush.
“People who say it doesn’t move around are in the denial stage,” Tallamy says. “I wouldn’t fight it as much as I do if it weren’t invasive, but butterfly bush just doesn’t stay where we plant it.”
And when you get right down to it, do your private property rights to grow what you want trump those of the plants, animals, and even other people around you?
“I wish people would know that what they do on their property impacts other properties and natural areas. Do they have the right to do that? I would argue no, they don’t,” Tallamy says.
Read the rest at Rodale’s Organic Life